Timbers honor Joni Hilger with award
Last updated 5/10/2021 at 10:57pm
Joni Hilger was one of the most dedicated and beloved volunteers at the Timbers of Shorewood – so much so that she was selected as the 2020 Volunteer of the Year and was slated to be presented with her award in April of last year.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the presentation did not take place and tragically, Joni was struck by a car in front of her house and died instantly on June 4, 2020.
On May 8, 2021, the Volunteer of the Year award was finally presented to Joni's family, an award that will from that day forward, be known as the "Joni Hilger Volunteer of the Year Award."
"Joni was slated to be the Volunteer of the Year in April of 2020, but when the pandemic hit, we had to cancel the annual volunteer appreciation event," Kevin Young, executive director of the Timbers of Shorewood said in a statement. "Joni was an outstanding volunteer for more than 10 years. Everyone knew her smile, and she brought great enthusiasm to many of our events."
Not only will the award be named in her honor, a tree will also be planted on the Timbers' 10-acre property as part of the Tree of Life remembrance program and Joni's family is donating a bench to be placed in front of the tree.
"She liked helping people," said Tom Hilger, Joni's husband. "She helped at a child care place, she helped at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, she volunteered at Shorewood library. She wanted to keep busy."
Joni and Tom moved to Shorewood from Tinley Park to be closer to their son Steve and his family. Joni was able to watch her grandchildren during the day and volunteer at night.
"Instead of just going home and watch TV, she wanted to help people. The people here really meant a lot," Steve Hilger said. "This is a special place to all of us. Years and years down the road, her name will still be brought up and that is really cool."
Joni took a real interest in the residents of the Timbers.
"She liked the people here (at the Timbers). She knew all about their families and how long they had been here. She knew how many grandkids they had, if they were boys or girls, names and ages. I don't know how she remembered all that. It was amazing."
It was that interest she took in the people that set Joni apart from normal volunteers.
"She was such a presence when she was here, to do something like this to honor her is the least we can do. She never failed – any time, any day, she was there and she loved it," said Amy Odell, Activities Director at the Timbers. "So, to have her spirit live on with the award is the least we could do for the family because of everything she did for us.
The youngest of five children, Joni was born on July 13, 1953 in Evergreen Park.
She met Tom at a bowling alley, the two married and had son Steve and daughter Trisha Comiskey.
Between Steve and Trisha, Joni nad Tom have five grandchildren.
"She was beyond special. For the longest time, I thought she was related to someone here when she wasn't," Odell said. "She would get people involved at the events, which was wonderful. She wasn't just there to serve cake or be in the background. She was front and center, laughing and really enjoying it. No matter if it was BINGO, a dance, a picnic, Easter, Halloween, she was here for everything. People here saw her as a friend and as family."